It’s that time of year: the end of summer and nearing of fall. For many of us, this means sweater weather, shifting our coffee order from hot to iced, and the changing color of the trees. Depending on your company’s schedule, it can also mean that your annual performance review is right around the corner. Regardless of when your next appraisal is, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success by avoiding these five common pitfalls.
- You are waiting until the last minute to prepare
When you begin any new job, one of the first questions you should be asking HR is, “How will my performance be evaluated and when?” This way, you know how much time you have to thoughtfully prepare and, when the time comes, it is no surprise. So, what does that preparation look like?
As you contribute to client wins, overcome difficult obstacles or receive positive feedback, you should absolutely be keeping track. The easiest and simplest way: Outlook. Create a folder called “Team Wins” or “Client Kudos”. As you receive praise, move messages into this file so that you can easily recall all of the great things you did in the months prior. Google docs is also a great tool and easy place to keep a running list.
Just as meaningful as recognizing those wins is keeping a pulse on the not-so-great situations that inevitably will occur. Mistakes are bound to happen, but what is most important is that you are able to own them, learn from them, and move on. Filing away these instances will also be beneficial come review time so that you can recognize opportunity areas and hopefully discuss how you have grown from challenging situations.
Your review serves as a key opportunity to highlight all of the ways you’ve succeeded in your role in the given time period, so make sure you are able to discuss them with your manager—and specific examples are key to supporting your self-assessment.
- You have not prioritized frequent check-ins with your manager throughout the year
One of the biggest contributors to employee frustration during a review is receiving brand new information that had never been previously discussed. While you cannot control what your manager says, you can build a meaningful relationship with him or her to promote transparency and open communication.
At the very least, you should be discussing your performance on a monthly basis, though bi-weekly would be ideal. While making time for this outside of client work and other ongoing deliverables can feel stressful or overwhelming, understand that these check-ins are vital to your growth and development, both in your career and personal life. For example, does your manager know how you prefer to receive feedback? Do you know how they prefer to be engaged? These meetings also serve a relationship builder, which will help your manager better speak to your strengths in your review. Prioritize these check-ins to ensure you have a clear understanding of your progress and that you are not caught off-guard come review time.
- You did not use your last review as a reference for growth areas
While your review is a prime time to highlight your achievements, make sure to address how they aligned with the goals you set out for yourself in your last review. Chances are, the first file your manager will reference when discussing your performance will be your most recent performance appraisal. Hopefully, you and your manager spent quality time aligning on those goals as well as a SMART action plan to achieve them. Ideally, you will have discussed your progress on achieving those goals throughout the review period. For your upcoming review, it is essential to consider the opportunity areas you outlined so that you can directly speak to your ability to turn feedback and action planning into results.
- You are waiting to speak instead of actively listening
You made it. It is finally time to sit down with your manager to discuss how your self-assessment compares to their evaluation of you and discuss next steps. You have invested quality time in preparing for this: you have an agenda of items you would like to discuss in mind as well as critical examples to support your statements. Whether it be a raise or a promotion, you should have the desired outcome in mind for this meeting, as well. While you are entering this meeting with lots on your mind, be sure not to let all of this distract you from the conversation itself and deter you from being present.
Consider this: your manager has spent equal time reviewing your performance as you have spent reviewing yourself—and often, even more. Not only did your manager weigh their point of view, but they likely also gathered feedback from your colleagues and synthesized all of this information in preparation for this meeting, too. Be sure that you are taking the opportunity to absorb the information they are sharing rather than just waiting for a free moment to share your next thought. The most productive performance review meetings involve two-way, meaningful conversation where each person’s points are considered in the other’s response. Do not miss out on this invaluable information.
- You are viewing opportunity areas as criticisms
Let’s face it: discussing areas of ourselves which need improvement or reflecting on a sticky situation is difficult. When hearing your manager—let alone anyone—spotlight these areas requiring enhancement, you can easily deflect ownership by taking offense and viewing feedback as criticism. You hear “opportunity area” as “weakness” or “personal issue” and go into defense mode. In doing so, you are missing out on valuable insight into others’ perspectives of you and your work and are not welcoming room for improvement—not to mention no longer actively listening.
Yes, depersonalizing feedback is sometimes hard. An excellent method for processing this feedback more objectively is to picture your manager as a personal trainer as opposed to a critic. In the gym, your trainer will praise what motions or exercises you are doing correctly, and primarily focus on helping you strengthen your weaker muscles in pursuit of a common goal. They are not demeaning you or insulting you as a person. They merely identify areas that are not as strong and provide you with guidance on how to be the best you can be. So, when you address opportunity areas in your meeting with your manager, shift your mindset to increase your self-awareness. Pro-tip: if you disagree with the information shared with you, understand that this is someone else’s perception. Consider, acknowledge and grow from it.
By keeping these errors top of mind, you can tackle your next Annual Review with confidence, readiness and a growth-mindset.